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A ‘shoot out’ with a 14-year-old grandson

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POSTED July 2, 2013 3:06 a.m.

Spending much time with our six grandchildren is difficult because of where they are all located on the map – from Texas to San Diego and south of San Jose.

Bonding with a 14-year-old grandson on our recent three-day trip to Pacific Grove had its share of challenges when it came to spending time with him. That all changed in the click of a shutter and a chance competition, along with a pretty young girl he spotted.

Connor, his mom and our very lively three-year-old grandson Ryan were in a separate room from ours in a modest motel up the street from the lighthouse.  With two adults and a younger brother, it can be a “boring” experience for a young teen to enjoy, but I was intent on changing all that.

It was our second morning there when I went to their room, knocked on the door to find Connor dressed but staring into the TV screen – too much for me to accept.

“Turn that thing off, get your camera and let’s go outside,” I said.  He looked at me somewhat startled but did what I asked with question in his expression.  “I’m going to show you how to take macro pictures of the inside of the flowers in the garden here and even a few of the birds and the bugs we can find.”

By the time we eventually headed for home our grandson would be smitten by a girl his age who we later came across in a yogurt shop and again in passing outside Toasties where we had gone for breakfast.

Our photo competition that morning was a magic moment of sorts for both of us photographing what we thought would make the most dramatic images and then letting each other compare what was showing up on the other camera’s viewing screens.   We must have spent half an hour in the garden around the pool. Connor was anything but bored. I was having a ball because he was listening to everything I had to offer about photography. 

Bonding with Connor has always been important, but never as successful as it was in Pacific Grove.  He is quite a Civil War enthusiast and student of politics, having just returned from Virginia and Washington, D.C., and a tour of the battle grounds thanks to his grandmother.

I suggested we walk down to the cemetery nearer to the beach and see if we could find graves of any Civil War veterans.  We found 11 and he took his own pictures topping it off with the silhouette of a buck deer feeding on the adjacent golf course grass.

 This is a boy who not long ago told me he was not a photographer, just someone who enjoyed seeing nature.  He knows what he likes, he added. My reaction to that was that once he saw what he liked,  all he had to do was click his camera – push the button for starters – in that direction.  A light seemed to click on in his head with that simple notion.

From the cemetery we went down to the shoreline where we both photographed the active seagull squadrons and the squirrels darting in and out of the rocks.  Of course the 14-year-old’s desire to climb the highest rocks he could find near the surf was more magnetic than he could resist.  Once reaching the top of a rock pile 300 feet away, he would turn and wave to me to take his picture.  I was thinking if his parents and my wife could see him now I would be in trouble.

That night after dinner he pleasantly startled me when he said, “Grandpa, I had so much fun today being with you.”  That was the ultimate gift for me as he asked to make use of the suds filled Jacuzzi next to the swimming pool.  It was dark, no one else outside, and his mother wouldn’t let him go alone, so I went with him and we chatted under the stars.

A side trip for us the next day was to an antique shop where he wanted to look for Civil War books.  He bought one and I got him a second volume to feed his excitement in learning more about the battles and the key military figures.

In the past Connor has gone with me on news assignments on my police beat and has been treated well by the local officers, even having cops offer to have their pictures taken with him.  Well,  he got a bigger taste of crime on the street when we were waiting for a Monterey book store to open after the owner left a “back in five minutes” note on the door,  having taken a short break.  We witnessed a horrific brawl on the sidewalk between two women right in front of the store where one was slamming the skull of the other into the pavement, time after time.  It was something he didn’t need to see, but it was a without a doubt a maturing experience, especially when an officer later asked for his perfect blow-by-blow account as a witness.

It was at that book store where he found four more volumes on the Civil War that he had been searching for to put in his bedroom library.

The following day he had asked to go to Mission San Juan Bautista on the way back to their family home in Morgan Hill – again it was just the two of us.   He had been there many times on his school trips, but this time he served as the perfect guide for his grandpa.  And, of course, the picture taking competition continued.  He’s going to be a pretty good photographer in his own right, with a life’s goal of becoming a high school history teacher someday.

As for the young girl who he had seen with her mother sitting next to us in the yogurt shop on Cannery Row that first night, he continues to hope they will somehow cross paths again when they can just sit down and talk.

After we had finished our breakfast at the Pacific Grove restaurant she and her mother had pulled into a diagonal parking spot.  The mom spotted our curly-haired three-year-old grandson with us on the sidewalk and commented how cute he was, adding they had seen us at the yogurt shop in Monterey the night before.  Her daughter stepped out of the car, walking toward us, and I had no idea of the interest Connor was seeing in her as he didn’t miss a step.

We were going to be driving in two cars toward home – Connor was with me.  “Grandpa, how old do you think that girl was who we just saw again.  Don’t you think she is pretty?”  I agreed that she was a definitely a pretty young lady and seemed to be as mature as he had become.  He said he hoped by chance she would somehow be in his freshman class next month in San Jose, wishing he had gotten a chance to talk to her.

I couldn’t let his comments go to the wind.  Leaving him in the car, I walked into the restaurant and found mom and daughter looking through the breakfast menu at a table for two.  Apologizing for interrupting them, I told the mother I thought I could brighten their day by telling her what had happened and repeated the candid observation – the scenario – about her daughter being “so pretty,” according to my grandson.

The girl blushed, her mom turned away from me, looking directly at her daughter saying, “See I told you!”

As I got back into the car and started the engine, Connor said, “Grandpa, I can’t believe you did that.  I was afraid you were bringing her out of the restaurant to meet me.”

Now, I think he wishes I had done just that since he can’t get her off of his mind more than a week later.

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